PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski took the lead on the final lap to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto took the white flag as the leader in the No. 21 Ford with Keselowski behind him. The pair stayed nose-to-tail down the backstretch but as the outside line started to get a run through turn 3, DiBenedetto went to the high side and opening the low line up for Keselowski, who took full advantage with help from behind to grab the lead all the way to the checkered flag.
“What an awesome day today to bring the MoneyLion Ford Mustang into victory lane,” said Keselowski. “The whole race I had a couple opportunities to take the lead, but I just kept thinking, ‘Man, keep your car in one piece’.”
The victory marked the first of the 2021 season for Keselowski and his sixth triumph at the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway.
“We’ve been so close here and it just didn’t seem to want to come together here the last few years and I’ve been on kind of a four-year drought here, but it’s nice to get number six,” said Keselowski.
Keselowski tied both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for the most wins at the track with his 35th career Cup Series victory.
“I would have never dreamed I’d tie Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. here. That’s something,” remarked Keselowski, who has now won at least one NASCAR Cup Series race in each of the past 10-seasons. “Those guys are really legends. I’m just really proud of my team.”
Keselowski’s margin of victory was 0.102-seconds in a race that featured 35-lead changes among 17-drivers.
Hendrick Motorsports William Byron came across the stripe in second place, extending his streak of top-10 finishes to eight races.
“Rudy and I’s communication is the kryptonite in the whole thing,” said Byron about Crew Chief Rudy Fugle. “I feel like we’re able to work really well together. That shows with how consistently we run every week, just ability to improve the car over the race. We did have some handling issues at the beginning of the race. Quickly fixed those, resolved that, had a race car to drive towards the front with.”
Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell was third, followed by Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and DiBenedetto.
“Our day will come,” lamented DiBenedetto about the missed opportunity at a victory. “We’ll get there, it’s just so circumstantial—our day will come.”
A couple of drivers had a miserable day in Alabama including Hendrick’s Kyle Larson, who had an engine issue after completing only three laps. Larson finished last (40th).
Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano finished 39th after flipping over when he got together with Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse in turn 3.
“I am appreciative of driving a car that is this safe and what Team Penske has done for the safety of these cars so that I can live to talk about it and go again,” said Logano. “I got lucky that I didn’t get hit while I was in the air. It is unfortunate for our Autotrader Mustang but we will go on but it won’t be a good starting spot next week.”
Last week’s winner Alex Bowman finished 38th after getting caught up in an accident. Bowman’s team was unable to complete repairs in six minutes and was forced to retire the car under NASCAR’s Damaged Vehicle Policy.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is May 2, 2021 at Kansas Speedway.
A.J. Allmendinger wins on ‘The Roval’….again!
CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – A.J. Allmendinger’s run towards a NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship is continuing into the Round of 8 after his third-straight win on ‘The Roval’ at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It’s special to win this race three years in-a-row,” said Allmendinger. “Do we go for the win during the race’s second stage by pitting early? We decided to do that. Once we got in the lead the Hyperice Chevy was so fast.”
Team Penske’s Austin Cindric finished second after starting from the pole position and having an eventful day. Cindric led the first seven laps of the race before missing the backstretch chicane. Cindric and his team went off strategy and by the end of the recovered and was in second place on the final re-start.
“I spun my tires like crazy on that last restart,” said Cindric, who already clinched a spot in the Round of 8. “I was worried about that, but I didn’t think it was going to be that bad. I feel like I could have tried a second gear restart. I think that would have helped me out at least maintaining some track position, but it was just not meant to be today.”
Daniel Hemric finished third followed by Justin Haley and Brandon Jones. All three also advanced into the Round of 8.
The other drivers advancing to the Round of 8 included Noah Gragson (sixth Saturday), Justin Allgaier (ninth) and Harrison Burton (15th).
The race featured six lead changes among five drivers, with Allmendinger leading the final 21 circuits. There were seven cautions for 13 laps.
The fourth caution also caused a brief stoppage when the brakes failed on the No. 07 Chevrolet of Josh Bilicki, with the car plowing through the backstretch chicane and dislodging pieces of curbing in its path. Track workers had to remove the exposed bolts that had held the curbing in place before the race could continue.
Brandon Brown gets Xfinity Series win at Talladega
TALLADEGA, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Brandon Brown picked up his first Xfinity Series victory winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Brown was racing three-wide for the lead with Justin Allgaier and Brandon Jones when the No. 20 of Harrison Burton broke loose in turn four triggering a multi-vehicle accident on lap 102 of the 113-lap event.
NASCAR officials reverted back to the last completed scoring loop to determine Brown was slightly ahead when the caution came out.
“Everything I’ve ever wanted to do is take the trophy home to Mom and Dad,” said Brown, who drives for his family owned team. “Oh my god, it’s a dream come true. A Talladega winner. Oh my god, Dad, we did it!”
Jones was credited with a second place finish and Allgaier came home in third position. Daniel Hemric finished fourth followed by Jordan Anderson in fifth.
Defending Xfinity Series Champion Austin Cindric remains atop the drivers standing following his 8th place finish. Allgaier is in second place followed by Hemric in third.
A.J. Allmendinger took a hit in the points after being involved in an accident and fell to fourth, 44-points out of the lead and 25-points above the 8th place cutoff to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Burton fell to eight in the points after his accident and sits only 8-points ahed of Jeb Burton for the final playoff transfer spot.
Kyle Larson wins at Bristol after Harvick & Elliott incident
BRISTOL, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kyle Larson passed Kevin Harvick with three-laps-to-go and went on to win Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Have always wanted to win here, so cool to finally do it,” said Larson. “We were able to stay close enough to Kevin. Chase was obviously upset with the contact, was just making things kind of tough on him. It kept me in the game.”
Elliott certainly made it tougher on Harvick after contact between the two, as they were fighting for the lead, sent the No. 9 Hooters Chevy to pit road with a flat left front tire. Elliott returned to the track a couple of laps down but on the same part of the track as the leaders and the defending Cup Series Champion ran the No. 4 up against the wall in frustration.
Elliott eventually passed Harvick but did not pull away with the fresher tires, instead Elliott took the racing line away from Harvick as Larson continued to close in. Larson caught and passed Harvick, who blamed Elliott.
“I just told him it was kind of a chicken-shit move he did there at the end,” fumed Harvick. “I was just trying to get the lead and race him hard. Then he pulls up in front of me and sits there till I lose the whole lead.”
“Well, it’s something he does all the time,” said Elliott of the contact from the No. 4. “He runs into your left side constantly at other tracks. Did it to me in Darlington a few weeks ago because he was tired of racing me. Whether he did it on purpose doesn’t matter. At some point you have to draw a line.”
The line to the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs was drawn after Bristol with four drivers falling out the playoffs.
Chip Ganassi’s hopes of winning that elusive NASCAR Championship ended Saturday night when Kurt Busch was one of those four drivers eliminated. Busch finished 19th at Bristol.
Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell and Tyler Reddick were also eliminated.